Myanmar's Suu Kyi says willing to be president

October 8, 2012 - 7:34 AM
Myanmar Suu Kyi

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks about her trip to the United States during a press conference at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy Party in Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared her willingness on Monday to serve as president, and her party's intention to amend the constitution to allow her to do so.

Suu Kyi said it is her duty as leader of the National League for Democracy party to be willing to take the executive office if that is what the people want. Myanmar's next election is in 2015.

"I'm a leader of a political party. As a political party leader, I also have to have the courage to be president. If that is what the people want, I will do so," Suu Kyi told a news conference.

Responding to a question, she said a clause in the constitution that effectively bars her from the job is one of several her party wants to change.

Suu Kyi returned last week from a 17-day trip in the United States, where she was feted as a hero of democracy.

Myanmar's reformist President Thein Sein also visited the U.S. last month. Thein Sein, a former general, has launched a series of political reforms since taking office last year after almost five decades of repressive military rule.

In an interview with the BBC during his trip, he said he could accept the idea of Suu Kyi taking his job.

"Whether she will become a leader of the nation depends on the will of the people. If the people accept her, then I will have to accept her," Thein Sein said.

Suu Kyi's party boycotted the last election in 2010, saying several aspects of the election law were unfair and undemocratic. It agreed to run in by-elections earlier this year after Thein Sein's party had the laws amended.

However, Suu Kyi's party still wants to change several clauses in the constitution. Some give the military enough unelected seats in parliament to effectively bar constitutional change.

Another bars anyone from the presidency whose parent, spouse or child enjoys the privileges of being the citizen of another country. Suu Kyi's late husband was British and the couple had two sons, who live outside of Myanmar.

Even though Suu Kyi's party holds only a small number of seats in parliament, she said she believes that other lawmakers may also be agreeable to the changes, noting that "parliament has more democracy than I expected."

"To amend the constitution has been one of our policies since we ran in the by-elections. We will keep trying to amend it — not only for me to be president, we will also amend other things," she said.